The Public Health Crisis for Survivors of Hate Violence

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As hate crime incidents continue to rise, human service and public health professionals need context and capacity building to properly and equitably address the public health concerns of survivors of this violence.

The brutality of hate crimes is severe and torturous. Regardless of the rational from the perpetrators, the time and energy needed to heal a person, their communities, and families is immeasurable.

The Legal Council on Health Justice (2019) reports that the long term health impacts for survivors of hate crimes is much higher than survivors of other types of harmful violent experiences. They attribute this to the extent of the crimes and the long standing feelings of fear, helplessness, and severe post-traumatic stress disorder, let alone the physical healing time and effort.

They wrote,

“In 2017, 59.6 percent of hate crime survivors and victims were based on race, 20.6 percent were based on religion, and 15.8 percent were based on sexual orientation. In 2018, the LGBTQ community made up 4.5 percent of the U.S. population, but made up 16 percent of reported hate crimes. The Jewish community made up 2 percent of the population, but 11.5% of hate crimes. And the Black community made up 13.4 percent of the population and 28 percent of hate crimes. (Legal Council on Health Justice, 2019, para 4)

The Southern Poverty Law Center regularly reports on hate groups in the United States. It also has a special tracking program for white supremacist groups and white nationalist ideology.

There needs to be a multi-faceted approach when addressing the grave public health concerns that plague survivors and their families.

We need to determine key areas of practice and policy that is needed to strengthen interventions and prevention efforts. We also need to move towards an ideology of collective liberation. bell hooks coined this term, which emphasizes the ways in which our lives are connected.

hooks writes,

“The ability to acknowledge blind spots can emerge only as we expand our concern about politics of domination and our capacity to care about the oppression and exploitation of others.”

The research and shifts in thinking/practice should include:

Community based strategies to improve healing and health outcomes for survivors.

Family based circles that allow for support and knowledge sharing on systems navigation.

Protections for survivors in the workplace to maintain their benefits and to have extended leave to support their short and long term healing.

Real consequences for hate speech, without limiting rights to free speech.

Curriculum changes for all education levels that has a collective liberation stance towards sharing truths about history and contemporary moments of examination.

Cognitive behavior training for family members of survivors.

Capacity building support for front-line workers.

“Anger management” specifically for survivors of violence that allows for righteous rage to expedite healing and lack of isolation.

There are a number of sources for quantitive data on hate crime violence in the United States. According to the FBI Hate Crimes statistics indicate that in 2017 nearly 50% (48.6%) of hate crimes were motivated by their perpetrators anti-black or African american bias. The second highest was 17.1% were victims of anti-white bias, and 10.9 percent were victims of anti-hispanic or latino bias.

In the 21st century there is not room to ask whether it is a crisis, we must not rest on the hope that someone or some institution will step up and handle it. We all must participate in alleviating the suffering of our broken hearts and minds that allow hate to permeate our lives.

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